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Quotations about Philosophy

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NOTE:  Some of the quotes on this page were submitted to me by visitors, and not all have been verified for original source or wording. I'm working hard to confirm everything, but in the meantime please be aware of the possibility for errors.  —ღ Terri, March 2021

It requires the augur-mind of the philosopher to bore its way into the knotty, hard fibre of reality. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897

To study philosophy is nothing but to prepare one's self to die. ~Cicero

Socrates termed philosophy the preparation for death; but should it not rather be styled the patient endurance of life? ~The Countess of Blessington, Desultory Thoughts and Reflections, 1839

Friends and Philosophers! For we be all philosophers together, viewing this varied world and pondering its antic ways. ~Arthur Guiterman, A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

Philosophy is nothing but common sense in a dress suit. ~Author unknown

"We two have much to think about," said the louse on the head of the philosopher. ~German proverb, as quoted by Robert Christy, 1890

You philosophers are sages in your maxims, and fools in your conduct. ~Madame Gout to Mr. Benjamin Franklin, "Dialogue between Franklin and the Gout," 1780

Get married, in any case.  If you happen to get a good mate, you will be happy; if a bad one, you will become philosophical, which is a fine thing in itself.  ~Socrates, in Diogenes Laertius, Lives

When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, that is metaphysics.  ~Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary

We live in a world in which politics has replaced philosophy.  ~Martin L. Gross, A Call for Revolution, 1993

The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.  ~Bertrand Russell

Leisure is the mother of Philosophy.  ~Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651

Man is a parrot, and he does not even get outside himself and look at himself as a parrot. If he did, he would thereby become a philosopher... ~Robert Lynd, "The Old Game," Solomon in All His Glory, 1923

It seems as though poetry and philosophy were twin stars of different but harmonious colours, each shining in the other's light, and shedding a twofold radiance upon their attendant planets. ~Henry James Slack (1818–1896), The Ministry of the Beautiful, 1850

Philosophy is just a hobby.  You can't open a philosophy factory.  ~Dewey Selmon

The natural philosophers are mostly gone. We modern scientists are adding too many decimals. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose.  Take which you please - you can never have both.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My definition [of a philosopher] is of a man up in a balloon, with his family and friends holding the ropes which confine him to earth and trying to haul him down.  ~Louisa May Alcott, in Life, Letters, and Journals, ed. E.D. Cheney, 1889

Philosophy begins in wonder.  And, at the end, when philosophic thought has done its best, the wonder remains.  ~Alfred North Whitehead

If everybody contemplates the infinite instead of fixing the drains, many of us will die of cholera.  ~John Rich

All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher.  ~Ambrose Bierce, Epigrams

Philosophy makes good reading for the man who has his rent paid. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

The verdure sleeps in winter,
      Awakes with April rain,
      The sun swings low—'tis night,—ascends,
      And lo! 'tis morn again:
The world spins on triumphant
      Across a trackless sky,
      And man seeks evermore in vain
      The primal reason—why?
~Georgia Douglas Camp Johnson (1880–1966), "Why," 1916  [First lines are 1922 version, last line is 1916 version. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

It is the courage to make a clean breast of it in the face of every question that makes the philosopher.  He must be like Sophocles' Oedipus, who, seeking enlightenment concerning his terrible fate, pursues his indefatigable inquiry even though he divines that appalling horror awaits him in the answer.  But most of us carry with us the Jocasta in our hearts, who begs Oedipus, for God's sake, not to inquire further.  ~Arthur Schopenhauer

The world is cursed with roaring and prancing politicians, and blessed all the while with whisperings of the philosophers. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

Upon the whole, I am inclined to think that the far greater part, if not all, of those difficulties which have hitherto amused philosophers, and blocked up the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to our selves. That we have first raised a dust, and then complain, we cannot see. ~George Berkeley

Open ears and sharp eyes are the philosopher's best tutors. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

To live alone one must be a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both — a philosopher. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

And this activity alone would seem to be loved for its own sake; for nothing arises from it apart from the contemplating, while from practical activities we gain more or less apart from the action.  And happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we are busy that we may have leisure, and make war that we may live in peace.  ~Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, "Book X: Pleasure and Happiness," translated by W.D. Ross

Being a philosopher, I have a problem for every solution.  ~Robert Zend

Metaphysics is a dark ocean without shores or lighthouse, strewn with many a philosophic wreck.  ~Immanuel Kant

Mandy Baxter: I'm loving college.... "Cogito, ergo sum."
Mike Baxter: Twenty-five grand so she can figure out whether she exists or not.
~Kevin Hench , Last Man Standing, "Back to School" [S1, E3, 2013]

Nobody can have the consolations of religion or philosophy unless he has first experienced their desolations.  ~Aldous Huxley, Themes and Variations, 1950

Philosophy, like medicine, has plenty of drugs, few good remedies, and hardly any specific cures.  ~Nicolas Chamfort, Maximes et penseés

Philosophers, for the most part, are constitutionally timid, and dislike the unexpected.  Few of them would be genuinely happy as pirates or burglars.  Accordingly they invent systems which make the future calculable, at least in its main outlines.  ~Bertrand Russell

To teach how to live with uncertainty, yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy can do.  ~Bertrand Russell

If you've never met a student from the University of Chicago, I'll describe him to you.  If you give him a glass of water, he says, "This is a glass of water.  But is it a glass of water?  And if it is a glass of water, why is it a glass of water?" And eventually he dies of thirst.  ~Shelley Berman

What is the first business of one who studies philosophy? To part with self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows. ~Epictetus (55–c.135), transmitted by Arrian (c.86–c.160), Discourses, Book II, Chapter XVII  ["How To Apply General Principles to Particular Cases," combination of translations but mostly Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1865 —tg]

Philosophy is a state of fermentation, a process without final outcome.  ~Esa Saarinen

Truth and Beauty (perhaps Keats was wrong in identifying them: perhaps they have the relation of Wit and Humour, or Rain and Rainbow) are of interest only to hungry people. There are several kinds of hunger. If Socrates, Spinoza, and Santayana had had free access to a midnight icebox we would never have heard of them. Shall I be ashamed of my little mewing truths?... I ask to be forgiven: they are such tiny ones. ~Christopher Morley, Inward Ho!, 1923

To ridicule philosophy is really to philosophize.~Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 1670

Philosophy is a mental concept of the universe. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

We come late, if at all, to wine and philosophy: whiskey and action are easier. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1963

Philosophy will clip an angel's wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine -
Unweave a rainbow.
~John Keats, "Lamia," 1819

Religion is a man using a divining rod.  Philosophy is a man using a pick and shovel.  ~Author Unknown

I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam: I looked into the soul of another boy.  ~Woody Allen

I also realized that the philosophers, far from ridding me of my vain doubts, only multiplied the doubts that tormented me and failed to remove any one of them.  So I chose another guide and said, Let me follow the Inner Light; it will not lead me so far astray as others have done, or if it does it will be my own fault, and I shall not go so far wrong if I follow my own illusions as if I trusted to their deceits.  ~Jean Jacques Rousseau

The only difference between graffiti and philosophy is the word "[f*@%]." ~Author unknown

Learning Zen is a phenomenon of gold and dung.  Before you understand it, it's like gold; after you understand it, it's like dung.  ~Zen Saying

Philosophy cannot raise the commonalty up to her level: so, if she is to become popular, she must sink to theirs.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Philosophy triumphs easily over past evils and future evils; but present evils triumph over it.  ~La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 1678

Philosophy:  A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.  ~Ambrose Bierce, The Enlarged Devil's Dictionary

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